March 2, 2021

House Passes Spending Bill Averting Government Shutdown

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The House approved a stopgap spending bill after Democratic congressional leaders and the Trump administration reached a deal on Tuesday to avert a government shutdown next week and extend funding through Dec. 11, agreeing to include tens of billions of dollars in additional relief for struggling farmers and for nutritional assistance.

With Congress unable to reach agreement on the dozen annual spending bills required to keep the government funded when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, the legislation would still need the support of both the Senate and President Trump in order to become law and avoid a shutdown.

The House cleared the two-thirds threshold needed to approve the measure on Tuesday evening, with a 359 to 57 margin and one Democrat, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, voting present.

The measure had been mired in a dispute between Democrats and the White House over Mr. Trump’s demand to include tens of billions to extend the borrowing limit of the Commodity Credit Corporation, which provides loans to farmers and which some Democrats feared Mr. Trump was using as a personal piggy bank to curry favor with a crucial bloc of voters and reward other powerful constituencies.

Having failed to strike an agreement on Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, revived negotiations and ultimately agreed to include the agricultural funding with a provision that it could not be used for payments to fossil fuel importers and refiners. They also agreed to include nearly $8 billion in nutrition assistance for school children and families demanded by Ms. Pelosi.




Schumer Assails Senate Republicans for Lacking ‘Honor and Decency’

Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, accused Republicans of hypocrisy for attempting to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat in an election year.

You would think that after the Republican majority led a historic blockade just four years ago to keep open a vacancy on the Supreme Court because it was an election year, they’d have the honor and decency to apply their own rule when the same scenario came around again. You’d expect this Senate majority to follow their own rule. What’s fair is fair. This is what Leader McConnell said in 2016. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” This is the “McConnell Rule.” The “McConnell Rule.” This is the principle that Leader McConnell and then-Chairman Grassley used to justify their refusal to even meet with President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Turns out, the “McConnell Rule” was nothing more than a McConnell ruse — Leader McConnell, sadly, sadly, is headed down the path of breaking his word to the Senate and the American people. He has exposed once and for all that a supposed principle of giving the people a voice in selecting the next justice was a farce.

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Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, accused Republicans of hypocrisy for attempting to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat in an election year.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Democrats on Tuesday moved to disrupt Senate business in protest of the Republican push to quickly confirm whomever President Trump nominates to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, shutting down a pair of hearings to register their dismay.

On a day of partisan acrimony on the Senate floor, Democrats refused to give the routine consent needed to allow committees to meet more than two hours after the chamber convenes, cutting short a closed-door meeting of the Intelligence Committee and a cybersecurity hearing.

“We can’t have business as usual when Republicans are destroying the institution, as they have done,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader.

The disruption came as Republicans swung into line behind Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, making it clear that he would have the votes for an election-season Supreme Court confirmation that Democrats would be powerless to prevent.

Democrats have expressed outrage at the move, particularly because Republicans, led by Mr. McConnell, refused in 2016 to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, arguing that no such confirmation should be allowed in a presidential election year.

Top Democrats conceded that their objections would have no effect on the ultimate vote.

“I’ve been around here a few years,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat. “You can slow things down, but you can’t stop them. And there comes a point when we would use whatever tools we have available. But ultimately there will be a vote.”

Republicans were outraged at the Democrats’ outrage.

“Senator Schumer is blocking the Intelligence Committee from meeting this afternoon with the individual who is in charge of election security for our government,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and a member of the panel, said. “It’s outrageous. I am stunned he’s doing that.”

The partisan rancor extended even to a nonbinding resolution to honor the life of Justice Ginsburg.

When Republicans sought to bring it up, Mr. Schumer insisted on adding a line “to honor her final wish that she should not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, balked and asked that the resolution be approved without mention of Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish, which was reportedly relayed to her granddaughter days before her passing.

Mr. Schumer objected to that, and prevented the resolution from advancing.

At the White House on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he would announce his nominee at 5 p.m. on Saturday, and again made baseless claims about the integrity of voting by mail.

“I’m getting very close to having a final decision made, very close,” the president said. “We need nine justices. You need that with the unsolicited millions of ballots that they’re sending. It’s a scam. It’s a hoax. Everybody knows that. And the Democrats know it better than anybody else. So you’re going to need nine justices out there. I think it’s very important.”




Romney Says He Supports Filling Supreme Court Vacancy

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said on Tuesday he supports holding a vote to fill the vacancy of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I think at this stage, it’s appropriate to look at the Constitution and to look at the precedent, which has existed over — well, since the beginning of our country’s history. And in a circumstance where a nominee of a president is from a different party than the Senate then more often than not, the Senate does not confirm. So the Garland decision was consistent with that. On the other hand, when there’s a nominee of a party that is in the same party as the Senate, then typically they do confirm. I came down on the side of the Constitution and precedent, as I’ve studied it, and made the decision on that basis. So I recognize that we may have a court, which has more of a conservative bent than it’s had over the last few decades. But my liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court. And that’s not written in the stars. And I know a lot of people are saying, “Gosh, we don’t want that change.” I understand the energy associated with that perspective, but it’s also appropriate for a nation which is, if you will, center-right, to have a court which reflects a center-right point of view, which again, are not changing the law from what it states. But instead following the law and following the Constitution.

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Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said on Tuesday he supports holding a vote to fill the vacancy of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said on Tuesday that he would support moving forward to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, all but assuring that President Trump has the votes he needs for an election-season confirmation to cement a conservative majority on the high court.

In a statement Tuesday morning, Mr. Romney echoed Republican leaders who have said that historical precedent supported filling the seat in an election year when the presidency and Senate were controlled by the same party.

“The Constitution gives the president the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees,” he said. “Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”

Mr. Romney, the 2012 presidential nominee who is one of the few Republicans who have been willing to criticize Mr. Trump, had been closely watched as a potential defector given his past breaks with the president, including when he voted to convict him in the impeachment trial and remove him from office.

But with the rest of his party quickly swinging into line, it had become clear that Mr. Romney’s opposition would not have been sufficient to block a swift march toward confirmation.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Romney indicated he would defer to party leaders on whether to try to hold a vote before Election Day or after, but said it was only fitting that Republicans have the chance to install a conservative on the nation’s highest court.

“My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court, but that’s not written in the stars,” he said. “I know a lot of people are saying, ‘Gosh, we don’t want that change.’ I understand the energy associated with that perspective. But it’s also appropriate for a nation that is, if you will, center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view.”

It appeared Tuesday that Republican leaders and Mr. Trump would hold defections within their own party to just two: Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who have said they would not support filling the vacancy so close to the election. Given Republicans’ 53-to-47 majority, and Vice President Mike Pence’s ability to break a tie, Democrats would have needed four defectors to join them in defeating a nominee.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, made no mention of the timing of a confirmation vote in remarks Tuesday morning, instead excoriating his Democratic colleagues for “the outcry and hysteria that has already erupted.”

“I’ll tell you what really could threaten our system of government — it’s not Senate Republicans doing legitimate things squarely within the Senate rules and within the Constitution the Democrats happen to dislike,” Mr. McConnell said. “No, what could really threaten our system is if one of our two major parties continues to pretend the whole system is automatically illegitimate whenever they lose.”

Mr. McConnell’s top deputy, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, told reporters he believed it was “a good idea for us to move forward” before the election.


Credit…Doug Mills/Associated Press

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, in announcing his support for moving forward with President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, repeated claims of a largely nonexistent tradition governing Senate procedure in judicial nominations.

“The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own,” Mr. Romney said in a statement on Tuesday.

That same misleading justification was used during and after the 2016 presidential election year, when Republicans refused to hold hearings for President Barack Obama’s nomination to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

But it is simply rare to have a vacancy on the Supreme Court in an election year in the first place, and the examples scattered throughout American history do not amount to a clear tradition or longstanding norm.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, and out of 30 election years, it had occurred only six times before 2016: in 1968, 1956, 1940, 1932, 1916 and 1912.

Different parties controlled the executive branch and the Senate in just one of those years, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower opted to make a recess appointment and not a nomination before the election. (In the 1988 election, a Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed the 1987 nomination of Anthony M. Kennedy by President Ronald Reagan.)

In the other five years, the president’s party also controlled the Senate, which successfully confirmed the nominee in four. (In 1940, the Senate confirmed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s nominee to replace Justice Pierce Butler, who died the previous year.)

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, nominated Associate Justice Abe Fortas to replace Earl Warren as chief justice. The Senate, which at the time was controlled by Democrats, did consider Justice Fortas for the position, but his nomination was withdrawn.

Examples from earlier American history muddle even further the notion of a “precedent” of intraparty harmony and resistance to opposing-party nominees. The Republican-controlled Senate confirmed the nominee of President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, in 1888. President John Tyler of the Whig Party unsuccessfully made seven nominations in 1844 to fill two Supreme Court vacancies. The Whig-controlled Senate rejected them all.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Playing down the dangers the coronavirus poses to young people, President Trump falsely told supporters in Ohio on Monday night that the virus “affects virtually nobody,” hours before the country reached the grim milestone of 200,000 recorded deaths linked to the pandemic, according to a New York Times database.

Mr. Trump, who has veered back and forth between claiming that he takes the crisis seriously and dismissing it as a transient problem that will disappear on its own, made his remarks during a rambling late-night rally at an airport hangar in Dayton. They were part of a chain of assertions Mr. Trump made about the virus centered around the misleading claim, made by the president and other Republicans, that the virus only sickens the old and the ill.

“It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems, if they have other problems, that’s what it really affects, in some states thousands of people — nobody young — below the age of 18, like nobody — they have a strong immune system — who knows?” Mr. Trump said.

“It affects virtually nobody,” he added. “It’s an amazing thing — by the way, open your schools!”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has rejected that argument. He told CNN on Tuesday that 25 to 30 percent or more of the population has an underlying condition, like obesity, that contributes to their risk of severe illness.

“It can be serious in young people,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s comments, made in passing, were embedded in a long digression that began with a discussion of tax cuts and ended with his familiar exhortation for local officials to reopen their schools.

His mishandling of the virus, and his administration’s attempts to downplay or distort information about its severity, has emerged as a major vulnerability heading into the election, especially among educated suburban voters.

Mr. Trump continues to talk about the virus in dismissive terms, against the advice of advisers, who have urged him to talk less about the pandemic and more about the economy, law enforcement and other issues.

The true number of Americans killed by the virus — including thousands of people under 65 and some victims who seemed to be in good health before the illness struck — exceeds official death counts and is likely much higher than 200,000 already, according to a recent analysis of deaths in excess of normal levels compiled by The New York Times.

The United States has recorded about 20 percent of the world’s fatalities even though the country is home to just 4 percent of the global population.

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

A fund created to help former felons in Florida pay back court fines and fees so that they may become eligible to vote has seen a huge burst in support ahead of the state’s Oct. 5 registration deadline.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which runs the fund, said on Tuesday that it had raised more than $20 million toward its $25 million goal.

Most of the money has come in since Sept. 11, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld a Florida law that leaves former felons disenfranchised unless they repay outstanding legal debts. A lower court had previously ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it amounted to a poll tax.

“When we got news of the ruling from the 11th Circuit, a clarion call was sent out throughout the entire country,” Desmond Meade, the executive director of the coalition, said in an interview.

Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who ran in this year’s Democratic presidential primary, tapped his network to raise the bulk of the money — $16 million, none of it which came from Mr. Bloomberg himself, according to an aide to Mr. Bloomberg. He has vowed separately to spend $100 million in Florida to help Joseph R. Biden Jr. win the state.

Among the celebrities involved in the effort have been the musician John Legend, the basketball stars LeBron James and Michael Jordan, and the director Steven Spielberg, the coalition said in a statement.

At the time of the appeals court’s ruling 11 days ago, the fund had raised about $4 million and helped more than 4,000 people. Each applicant has received about $1,000 in assistance, according to the coalition, which means $25 million could help some 25,000 former felons.

In all, the coalition said, it has received contributions from about 44,000 donors.

There are at least one million former felons in Florida, and nearly three-quarters owe some sort of court debt, a study by a University of Florida professor found. Most are too poor to pay.

Judge Barbara Lagoa, one of the people whom President Trump is considering to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, voted with the 6-4 majority upholding the law requiring the payment of court fines and fees.

Credit…Allison Farrand for The New York Times

Senator Kamala Harris, in Michigan on Tuesday, met with Black voters in Flint and Detroit, aiming to shore up a key demographic that stayed home in droves in the 2016 election.

“It was very important to me and to us that we be here on Seven Mile Road,” Ms. Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, said during a forum with about a dozen men at Headliners Barbershop in Detroit. “This is one of the most significant roads of Black businesses in America, Black-owned businesses in this neighborhood and Black-owned homeownership for generations.”

In Flint, she went to a Black-owned barbershop, a bookstore and a clothing store, speaking about the importance of registering to vote and about how a Biden-Harris administration would be more responsive on issues like the coronavirus pandemic and the economic damage it has caused.

Her visit to Michigan came two days before early voting starts in the state, with clerks to mail out absentee ballots to nearly 2.4 million people who have requested them. Voters can also cast absentee ballots in person at their clerks’ offices.

Michigan, a key battleground state, flipped from blue to red in 2016 and had the narrowest vote margin in the nation.

At the Detroit forum, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said: “We have an opportunity to declare and demonstrate the power to shape the future, by not leaving our voting power on the table.”

Referring to exit polls in 2016 that suggested about 13 percent of Black men voted for Donald J. Trump, Mr. Gilchrist, who is Black, said, “With this election, I want to be able to say that less than half of that happened this time.”

Antonette Iverson, 25, of Detroit, watched Ms. Harris’s visit there through a large gate and said she was thrilled to see her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister on the verge of making history. She was especially impressed that Ms. Harris didn’t stick to the more affluent areas of the city.

“She wasn’t just like downtown somewhere. She’s here and not afraid to come to the hood and be where the people really are,” Ms. Iverson said. “Harris is our girl. She’s really riding for us. We don’t always agree with what Biden is doing, but we know she’s going to be the voice of reason.”

Credit…Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Cindy McCain, the widow of Senator John McCain of Arizona, who President Trump once ignominiously said was not a war hero because he was captured in Vietnam, on Tuesday became the latest notable Republican to endorse Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.

“My husband John lived by a code: country first,” Mrs. McCain said in a post on Twitter. “We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden.”

Mr. Biden, whose friendship with Mr. McCain transcended party lines and was highlighted at last month’s Democratic convention, first announced Mrs. McCain’s endorsement during a Zoom call with contributors to his campaign.

He said that Mrs. McCain had been compelled to endorse him after the report in The Atlantic that said Mr. Trump had privately referred to American troops killed in combat as “losers” and “suckers.”

Mr. Trump has vehemently denied making the disparaging comments, which Mr. Biden said on Tuesday were hurtful to him and to Mrs. McCain. He drew a parallel to his elder son Beau, a Bronze Star recipient who died of brain cancer in 2015 at 46, and Mr. McCain, a former prisoner of war.

“He said they’re losers, they’re suckers,” Mr. Biden said, whose virtual event was covered by pool reporters.

It was not immediately clear what kind of role Mrs. McCain could be asked to play in Arizona, where Mr. Trump trailed Mr. Biden in recent polls despite carrying the state by just over 91,000 votes in 2016.

In late August, more than 100 former McCain staffers endorsed Mr. Biden, saying that they wanted to amplify Mr. McCain’s “Country First” credo.

One week earlier, Mr. Trump panned Mr. McCain’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign and called him a “lousy candidate with lots of bad policy.” It was the latest put-down of Mr. McCain, who died of a brain tumor in 2018.

In 2015, Mr. Trump was condemned across the political spectrum for belittling Mr. McCain’s military record as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“He’s not a war hero,” Mr. Trump said at the time. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Months after Mr. McCain’s death, Mr. Trump lashed out at him on Twitter for having voted in 2017 against a bill to repeal Obamacare.

And last year, the White House asked the Navy to hide a destroyer named after Mr. McCain so that the ship would not appear in photographs taken while Mr. Trump was visiting Japan.

Credit…Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Democrats won another victory on Tuesday in a voting-related lawsuit, when North Carolina elections officials agreed to extend the deadline for receiving mail ballots by six days.

Under the agreement, signed as a result of a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans, the state will count ballots received by Nov. 12 as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day. The previous deadline had been Nov. 6.

The agreement also provides for absentee ballot drop-off stations and allows North Carolina voters to correct deficiencies in their mail-in ballots, such as missing voter and witness signatures.

The retiree group, which had sued North Carolina elections officials, was represented by Marc E. Elias, the leading Democratic elections lawyer.

It was the latest in a string of victories reported by Mr. Elias in election-related lawsuits.

Credit…Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Republicans in Pennsylvania are challenging a decision to extend the deadline for counting mail-in ballots, laying the groundwork for what could become one of the first consequential election-law tests before the Supreme Court since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In court documents filed this week, the Pennsylvania Republican Party asked the state’s Supreme Court to grant a partial stay so that it could appeal a recent ruling by the court that pushed back the deadline for accepting mailed ballots until three days after the election, at 5 p.m. on Nov. 6.

There is no guarantee that the high court will hear the case, however.

Under the current law, mail-in ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, which is when the polls close in the state. In contrast to other states, there is no provision in Pennsylvania for accepting ballots that are postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3, but not received until later.

Republicans contend that the state Supreme Court’s ruling gives the benefit of the doubt to mail-in ballots that are not postmarked and received after the election.

“The court’s presumption opens the door to illegally and untimely cast or mailed ballots being counted in, and tainting the results of, the imminent general election in which millions of Pennsylvanians will exercise their right to vote,” a lawyer for the Pennsylvania Republican Party wrote in the court filing.

The challenge, which was reported by The Hill, is one of several cases brought by Republicans in battleground states opposing changes to mail-in voting rules. A number of them could be settled by the Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives 5 to 3 after the vacancy created by Justice Ginsburg’s death on Friday.

Millions of voters are expected to use mail-in ballots in November, many of them seeking to avoid in-person visits to polling places because of the pandemic.

President Trump carried Pennsylvania in the 2016 election, with just over 44,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton.

Credit…Pool photo by Mikhail Klimentyev

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is most likely continuing to approve and direct interference operations aimed at raising President Trump’s re-election chances, a recent C.I.A. analysis concluded, a signal that intelligence agencies continue to back their assessment of Russian activities despite the president’s attacks.

The assessment was disseminated in support of sanctions imposed this month on Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker who has spread information critical of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. It is consistent with intelligence officials’ warning to lawmakers in January that Russia was interfering on Mr. Trump’s behalf, a briefing that outraged Republicans and eventually helped oust Joseph Maguire from his post as acting director of national intelligence.

The C.I.A. has moderate confidence in its analysis, a lower degree of certainty than its 2016 assessment of Mr. Putin’s preferences, in part because the intelligence community appears to lack intercepted communications or other direct evidence confirming his direction of Mr. Derkach’s efforts. Mr. Putin, a former intelligence agent, is careful not to use electronic devices.

According to people familiar with the matter, the new analysis was published ahead of the sanctions in the C.I.A. Worldwide Intelligence Review, a classified document that circulates to members of Congress and the Trump administration. The Washington Post earlier reported the assessment.

Mr. Trump himself remains hostile to arguments that Russia is intervening to support him. After the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, testified last week that Russia was trying to sow discord in the United States and “denigrate Vice President Biden,” Mr. Trump chastised him publicly, saying he should have also emphasized China’s election interference efforts.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Facebook has detected limited Chinese operations intended to both help and hurt President Trump’s re-election chances, the company announced on Tuesday, the first public disclosure of Chinese efforts to influence the presidential election in November.

The Chinese activity, while modest and not directly attributed to the government in Beijing, could undercut Mr. Trump’s repeated contention that China is intervening in the election to support his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr. While the intelligence community has assessed that China opposes Mr. Trump’s re-election, officials said this week that the actions on Facebook so far were small and that Beijing had not yet decided to mount a large-scale influence operation comparable to Russian efforts in 2016 and this year.

Facebook identified a range of fake accounts pushing information about American and Philippine politics and Chinese activity in the South China Sea. Though much of the activity outlined by China focused on the Philippines, some was more directly relevant to American politics.

Facebook said it was removing the accounts for violating its policy against “inauthentic behavior.” The activity was coordinated and originated in China, though Chinese officials, including the ambassador to the United States, have denied that they are seeking to influence the vote in November.

Facebook security first detected the activity and shared the information with U.S. government officials. American technology companies and intelligence agencies have shown more willingness this year to release information about foreign influence operations, having been criticized by lawmakers for being too cautious in 2016.

While the Chinese-created campaign gained more than 133,000 followers, Facebook said it had received little attention in the United States, with fewer than 3,000 U.S.-based accounts following it. The group posted information both for and against Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.

“They were focused on driving division,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of security at Facebook.

Credit…David Sharp/Associated Press

For the first time in American history, voters apparently will be able to cast ballots this fall stating not just whom they want to be president, but which other candidates they would choose should their favorite lose.

The concept is called ranked-choice voting, and Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Tuesday that it could be used in the presidential contest, even as Republicans who have bitterly fought the idea for years vowed to continue resisting it.

In an era of corrosive partisanship, ranked-choice voting has slowly gained support among voters who argue that it discourages political extremism and ends the ability of third-party candidates to act as spoilers in close races.

The process allows voters to list as many choices as they wish in order of preference. Winners are determined in a kind of instant runoff in which candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated, round by round, until one candidate wins an outright majority. Advocates say that ensures that the person chosen is favored by the most voters.

“It’s a smart reform that gives voters more choices and creates better campaigns,” Joshua A. Douglas, an election-law scholar at the University of Kentucky, said Tuesday. In recent years, it has been adopted in some elections in Minnesota, New Mexico and a number of other states, mostly in the West and Northeast.

Although five candidates will be on the Maine presidential ballot in November, ranked-choice voting seems unlikely to play much of a role in the 2020 contest, where minor-party candidates are not seen as an important factor. But the system could have swayed some results in 2016, when candidates from the Green and Libertarian parties captured small but significant shares of the vote in some close races.

Maine voters first approved the concept in a 2016 referendum, and federal judges have upheld its legality twice. Republicans oppose the idea in part because a Republican in the House of Representatives, Bruce Poliquin, lost a re-election contest in 2018 despite winning a plurality of first-place votes.

The state Republican Party had mounted a petition campaign for a referendum to undo voters’ earlier support of ranked-choice voting. But the Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Tuesday that it had not gathered enough signatures, clearing the way for its use this fall.

Some Republicans said, however, that the fight was not over. The chair of the Maine G.O.P., Demi Kouzounas, said the party was “exploring further options for review by the federal courts to protect Maine voters’ rights to be heard.”

Credit…Pool by Matt McClain

Attorney General William P. Barr on Tuesday dismissed calls to defund the police across the country, describing them as irrational because they lead officers to pull back from protecting the citizens in their communities.

“Some communities that have not supported their police are now losing their police, and the police they have are not, for obvious reasons, willing to put their life on the line and take extra risk,” Mr. Barr said at a news conference with local and federal law enforcement officials in Milwaukee.

Mr. Barr has been a staunch defender of the police and an outspoken critic of reform efforts, denying that systemic racism is a problem in policing. And he has also emerged as one of President Trump’s strongest defenders, sometimes going further into the political realm than his predecessors, as when he warned earlier this month that the United States would be “irrevocably committed to the socialist path” if Mr. Trump was not re-elected.

His comments in Wisconsin, a key swing state, dovetailed with the law and order themes that Mr. Trump has been stressing on the campaign trail. And they came after a New York Times/Siena College poll this month found that voters in Wisconsin and Minnesota were evenly split on whether they trusted Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, or Mr. Trump more to handle violent crime and law and order, giving Mr. Biden a small but insignificant edge.

Mr. Barr said Tuesday that in some cities where there were initially calls to defund the police this year, residents had changed their rhetoric in response to officers refraining from taking risks. He did not cite specific examples.

“They don’t feel that they will be supported — and now you’re seeing some of the populations in that those cities calling for the police,” Mr. Barr said. “So I think it’s just irrational to want to defund the police. It’s like the United States disarming unilaterally. Protecting the people is the first duty of government.”

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

In the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, Democratic strategists working on Senate campaigns from Alaska to Maine to North and South Carolina described a spontaneous outpouring of donations the likes of which they had never seen.

The influx of cash will allow Democrats the financial freedom to broaden their map of pickup opportunities, or press their financial advantage in top battlegrounds already saturated with advertising.

By Monday, Democratic contributors had given more than $160 million online through ActBlue, the leading site for processing digital donations. ActBlue broke one record after another — its biggest hour in 16 years, its busiest day, its busiest weekend — after Justice Ginsburg’s death.

An estimated tens of millions of dollars went toward efforts to retake the Senate, where the acrimonious confirmation fight to replace Justice Ginsburg will occur.

At least 13 Democratic candidates or senators raised more than $1.3 million each since Friday from a single fund-raising effort.

And in a closely contested race in North Carolina that could tip the balance in the chamber, Cal Cunningham, the Democrat challenging Senator Thom Tillis, enjoyed a $6 million influx of cash.

As impressive as Mr. Cunningham’s haul was, the Democratic candidates in Maine, Arizona, Kentucky and South Carolina are believed to have fared even better.

“Righteous anger is being translated into political action,” said Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, who helped raise $122,000 in online donations for Mr. Cunningham over the weekend.

Credit…Kathryn Gamble for The New York Times

President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. are tied for support, 47 percent to 47 percent, among likely voters in Iowa, a state Mr. Trump won by 9 percentage points in 2016, according to a poll released on Tuesday and conducted for the Des Moines Register by Selzer & Co.

The survey, one of the most highly regarded polls in a perpetual battleground state, found a dramatic and widening gender divide: Mr. Trump leads, 57 to 36 percent, among men, while Mr. Biden holds a virtually identical advantage, 57 to 37 percent, among women.

“I don’t know that there’s any race in the history of presidential polling in Iowa that shows this kind of division,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., told the Register.

Mr. Trump carried men in Iowa by 28 percent four years ago. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, won women voters by 7 percent, a much smaller margin than what the poll found for Mr. Biden.

“If Biden wins, it’s because women are steering the ship,” Ms. Selzer said.

The poll represents a static race likely to be decided by relatively small movement on the margins. Only 3 percent of respondents were undecided, with 4 percent throwing their support to third-party candidates.

The survey of 658 likely voters was conducted Sept. 14 through 17, and has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

Iowa, known for its role at the start of the presidential primary process, has carved out a unique niche at the end of this general election.

Virtually every race in the state this year, from the presidential race, to the Senate contest between the incumbent Republican, Joni Ernst, and her Democratic opponent, Theresa Greenfield, to the fight over its four House seats, is more or less deadlocked, polls have found.

Ad Watch

Democrats up and down the ballot have been focusing on health care in their paid advertising campaigns. Now, with a vacancy on the Supreme Court upending the presidential and Senate races, Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC, is using a new ad to remind voters that the Trump administration is seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in a case heading to the Supreme Court.

The ad begins with a different focus, aimed at undercutting the support Mr. Trump has been seeing in polls regarding his ability to rebuild the economy. It frames the 2017 tax law as one that helped “the rich get richer” and states that his proposed budget would have included cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. “But that’s not all,” a deep-voiced narrator intones.

The ad claims that the Trump administration “asks Supreme Court to Strike Down Affordable Care Act,” a reference to a current lawsuit that the court has not yet decided. The ad continues to another repetition of a common Democratic attack: that the gutting of the Affordable Care Act, whether through the courts or legislation, would end coverage for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. The ad concludes its focus on health care by noting that all these efforts are ongoing “in the middle of a pandemic.”

It is true that billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class in 2018. While the 2017 federal tax law wasn’t the sole cause of the tax rate, it was “the tipping point” by lowering the top income tax rate and cutting corporate taxes, according to a study by economists at the University of California at Berkley.

It is also true that the president’s budget in 2020 sought to cut many safety net programs. But perhaps with an eye toward the coming election, Mr. Trump’s budget avoided some hot-button issues — notably by not reducing Social Security or Medicare benefits. Most of the administration’s initiatives to save money on Medicare are cost-reduction proposals first offered under President Barack Obama. Earlier this year, Mr. Trump suggested to an interviewer at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that he would “at some point” look at cutting entitlement programs.

The Trump administration is seeking to eliminate the Affordable Care Act in court, which would also eliminate provisions in the law that protect people with pre-existing conditions. In the past, Mr. Trump has expressed support for a bill sponsored by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, that would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions. However, it would allow certain states to request an exception that would allow insurers to charge more based on a person’s health status.

On television in Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.

The 2018 midterms were a windfall for Democrats largely over the issue of health care and prescription drug costs. In the midst of many crises of 2020, from the coronavirus to natural disasters to the sudden vacancy on the Supreme Court, it appears many Democratic groups will keep the message, at least somewhat, on health care.

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